Research – Men and domestic violence: interview F (pt.2)

This is the continuation of Interview with F – one of a series of anonymous interviews on men’s experience of domestic violence and abusive relationships.

F: …as well, all our birthdays are in November. So I phoned up to say, “right, I’ll come down to give you your present”, and she was very angry, because she was being kicked out of her Housing Trust house, because she hadn’t paid the rent, it was two thousand dollars in arrears and they were kicking her out, an um… – she only paid something like sixty dollars a week – and, um…

T: That’s the best part of a year’s rent! Yeah.

F: That’s right.

T: Eight months’ rent.

F: And she blamed me because I wasn’t giving any maintenance, ‘cos I didn’t care about them or my kid, and now they were going to be kicked out on the street, and it was all my fault.

T: Right.

F: So I…

T: So she’s harassed every employer you’ve had, to make sure that you lose your job, and now it’s your fault that she… that you haven’t been able to pay anything.

F: That’s right.

T: Right. Okay.

F: So I, I hung up, I didn’t bother arguing the point. I saw S. [a lawyer]… well, B. [the men’s-group co-ordinator] and the men’s group – before I met B. and the men’s group, I was really totally, completely powerless and cornered and not seeing my kid and very angry, very upset…

T: Did you take it out on anyone else? Did you start getting into fights with other guys, for example?

F: Ah, I didn’t, because of my Christian beliefs.

T: Right. Okay.

F: …but I was very //depressive? aggressive? oppressed about it?//

T: So what did you do with the anger?

F: Well, B. put me onto S., who’s got a… a desire to help men. And, er, S. said “she’s denying you access, it hasn’t been to court so far, so there’s nothing to stop you legally from picking up your daughter and taking her home for a night’s access, or just taking her home and applying for a court order for custody. However”, he said, “if we apply to the courts, it’ll take you three weeks before you get heard.” So I asked my mate, this Christian bloke, to come down with me, and I was going to pick up my daughter for a night’s access. I arrived at the house, my daughter was sitting on the lounge room, I walked in and picked her up, J. merely said “oh yeah, hello, how are you, what do you want”. I then put my daughter in the car, and she said “what are you doing?”, I locked the car door and she become frantic, “what are you doing?”, and “I said I’m taking her for a night’s access, I’ve waited three months for you to be kind enough to give, you haven’t done it, so now I’m going to have to take some access”. My daughter was happy to see me, and ready to go, J. started crying and getting into a tantrum, at one stage she tried to grab the keys out of my car, um…

T: Again, did she hit you at all?

F: No, no, she just tried to grab the keys and scream at me. Um, she… I said, “right, I’m going”, I started to drive away, she screamed that she’d call the Welfare, the police, everyone. And I said, “do it, call ’em”, and I drove away. I’d only been at home half an hour, when a police car with sirens going and lights flashing screamed up to my front door, I went out with my daughter in my arms, and they said, “oh, we hear you’ve kidnapped a, your child”, oh, “the child”, it wasn’t even my child, so, um… I said “no”, and I showed them the letter which the lawyer had given me which said that it hadn’t been to court and we were going to court. When they read this they realised they didn’t have any jurisdiction to take the child, so they, they spoke to me for a while, and they [said], “well, you seem quite calm, and she seems quite… out of it and quite angry and…”. They said… when I explained I hadn’t seen my daughter for three months and she was being totally unreasonable, they said, “we hope that you win the case, because you’re more than likely to give access, whereas she isn’t”. They then shook hands and they left.

T: Yes.

F: Then three cop cars screamed up to my house, lights and sirens going…

T: Ye-es! [wry laugh]

F: …and then once… when the original police cars explained it to them, they all drove away. Five police cars, you know, screaming to my house with lights and sirens going, on this woman’s say-so, over the telephone? So, then, through the night, various members of my church, and friends, would drive round to my house because she was phoning up everybody that she knew, or could get the phone number to, to say that I’d kidnapped the child, and they come…

T: So you didn’t actually have any access, because you’d spent the whole of the time talking to people, saying that you hadn’t kidnapped the child.

F: That’s right. However, once the…

T: So it’s a continuation of exactly the same harassment.

F: That’s right. Well, she went in to see some lawyers at nine o’clock in the morning – I’d already seen a lawyer two days ago, and I was told it would take at least three weeks, between three weeks to three months…

T: Just a moment…

[brief interruption by child wanting attention]

T: You were saying that she… it took you… you were told it would take you at least three weeks to get anything through the court.

F: At least three months – at least three weeks, possibly three months, before we even got in for a hearing, //..//, well J. went in at nine o’clock in the morning, and by three o’clock that afternoon she had a court hearing, and I had a, um… and…

T: Were you informed of this court hearing?

F: No. I had a man at my front door giving me a summons at three o’clock to be in court at three o’clock. And there’s no way I could make it. So she got in there, with her lawyer, I phoned S. who was in the Family Court anyway, so he walked in and stood in for me. The first thing her lawyer said was “when is the kidnapper going to give the child back to the rightful mother?” – she said this in front of the judge – and my lawyer didn’t really having anything worked out of what to say, he’d only had five minutes notice himself, they had a whole strategy. They filled out a form – I can’t remember what the form is called – it’s a special form for if the child is in physical danger or moral danger, and…

T: Yes. And you’re talking about going… the child is in… the child is to be taken back to a heroin user.

F: Well…

T: Yeah. Okay.

F: Well, the form was, was filled in by the mother to say that the father was physically or sexually abusive to the father – to the child…

T: …to the child…

F: …to the child…

T: So she’s stating categorically that you physically and sexually abusive to the child.

F: And that for this reason the child should be immediately back to the mother.

T: Right.

F: The judge just said, “yes, okay” and took her word for it, and I then had to, um, appear in the court the next day – no, I was then told I had to get the child back by six o’clock that night, otherwise I would be in contempt of court. So I did. And I’d only actually had her for twenty-four hours, which is all I said I was going to have her for anyway. Um… then we had to wait, I think it was three weeks or so, before we actually got into court again, and I didn’t have any access until that time.

T: Right. So she’s made a claim that you are physical and/or sexual abuser of the child. Did she withdraw this claim?

F: No. No.

T: Right. So she has made a formal claim there that you are one. Okay? Because I’ve tried to avoid names, a very blunt question: have you ever done either of those things?

F: To the child?

T: To the child.

F: No. No, no.

T: Right. That’s actually quite important, because I said, because I’m asking you to be honest, I don’t doubt your word, I’m just trying to get it down on tape. Have you ever done so,? Have you ever done anything which could be interpreted as such? Obviously you’ve had to do things like bathing the child.

F: Well, that’s right. What I do, and I still do sometimes, is get in the bath with the child, I wear a pair of jocks when I’m bathing with her, because otherwise she would try to grab my… my…

T: Grab your dick, yeah.

F: Right. So I wear a pair of jocks so she won’t do that. She’s naked of course in the bath-tub. Um…

T: And this is a two and a half… two… just over two years old.

F: Yeah. Yeah. Um… and at night-time, if she’s finding it hard to get to sleep in her cot, quite often I’ll put her in the bed with me. And it’s…

T: And you’re sleeping… you’re on your own, aren’t you, you’re not with anyone.

F: No. No. And, um… that’s the closest…

T: That’s the closest you come to…

F: …to what could be construed as.

T: Yes. From another point of view, in both cases, actually I would have considered – this is my own opinion – I would consider it abusive of you not to do that.

F: Well, I mean…

T: …certainly the sleeping, if the child is frightened and on its own, then it is appropriate to do so. But you have… I’m just asking you, because this is an un-named tape, asking you to say whether you’ve done so. The allegations have been made: what evidence did she have, if any, that this was true?

F: Um… well, she had her… well, one of her friends said that, um… one day when Y. was returned – oh, that first day, no, nothing, later on she tried to further press the point, and…

T: So she’s repeated the allegations?

F: Yeah.

T: Right.

F: She got the child home after a weekend’s access, and she claims that she found a public hair in the child’s nappy – whether it was a beard hair or her imagination I don’t know…

T: Beard hair would look like pubic hair, yes.

F: She then took the child to the doctor to be medically examined to see if it had been interefered with, and, um… and got it all stated in black and white on paper so that it looks good for her point of view.

T: What, did they get the doctor’s report?

F: Not to the court so far, but her lawyers got that doctor’s report, should they need to use it as ammunition.

T: Right. So you’re being held in suspense, you had an allegation made to you. The fact of a beard hair is sufficient to look like – well, it is pubic //..//, it is pubic hair. Um… the… so an allegation has been made to you, the only evidence – they have no actual evidence of this being so, we have a statement from you that this is not so. If it turns out to be false, do you have any redress.

F: No. And one thing I’d like to say, when I was in the men’s group, there’s been a…

T: Hang on. There’s been a major charge mad against you…

F: [firmly] There’s no redress.

T: So again, this is a major charge, it could put you in jail for quite a number of years.

F: Yep.

T: …and if it is false – it could have been completely cooked up – do you have any redress?

F: Not that I know of.

T: All right. That’s all I was asking.

F: The interesting thing, when I was at the men’s group, and I said this, another bloke said “oh, I’ve also been accused of this child-molesting thing”. And – you know – for a few seconds I had a feeling of doubt: “well, did you do it?”

T: Yes. [wry laughter from both] It’s important, I mean, it is important to ask you absolutely bluntly…

F: Yeah. That’s right.

T: …because I’m trying to set up a situation where being honest is more useful than hiding. Um… it’s difficult to set that up…

F: Well, the idea… the idea absolutely disgusts me, no way, um…

T: It’s interesting that the reflex response is “did he do it?”

F: Well, yeah, that’s when somebody else was saying it, and I just…

T: Do you question whether women sexually molest their children?

F: No, not really.

T: Do you think it possible?

F: [confused laugh] I think it possible but very unusual.

T: Unfortunately, in my own experience of dealing with people, it’s about as common as the other way round.

F: Yeah, it’s incredible, I’ve never really heard of it…

T: Indeed. I just thought I would provide you that information. I’ve been in the self-development environment and come across many women, many both boys and girls molested by mothers.

F: [long pause] Um…

T: But you were saying there was another guy at the men’s group, and he said exactly the same.

F: Yeah, he said the same thing. And I’d just finished saying what I’d said, and as soon as he said he’d also been accused of it, I had a feeling of doubt about him, because it can happen.

T: So it’s a reflex response to doubt whether a man… when someone has accused a man of molesting a child…

F: …but not a woman.

T: Yeah. To accuse a man of molesting a child is an instant statement of guilt, regardless of the circumstances.

F: Right. “Where there’s smoke there’s fire”.

T: Yeah. So it’s a very powerful – or rather ‘dispowerful’ – position, a position in which you can disempower someone just by accusation.

F: That’s right.

T: Right. Okay. Er… okay. So where are you now?

F: Um… where am I now? I’m…

T: You have your daughter with you right now.

F: Yup. I, I have access Friday to Sunday, we’re going to trial soon, I think in April or May, and um… there’s a lot of stuff… what’s happened, one of the things that’s happened is, um, J.’s said so many things about me that she’s sort of weaved a tangled web – “what a tangled web we weave, when we start to deceive”, sort of thing – um… and she’s contradicted herself many times…

T: So she has contradicted herself? Yeah.

F: …and when we get to trial it’s going to look pretty bad for her. And, um… she’s actually admitted at one stage to using heroin in court, at another stage she’s denied it, she was told to give a urine sample which came out clean, she then told me she’d asked a friend’s child to give this sample…

T: Right, so in fact she’s provided a false sample.

F: Yeah. And, um… she’s a rather… she’s been kicked out of her Housing Trust and she’s now living at her mother’s place, she owes money to ETSA and Telecom and everyone, so she couldn’t get a house by herself if she wanted to, ‘cos she couldn’t get any of the power or anything put on, and, um, because things are looking bleak for her, at the moment she’s trying to be very nice to me, talking about reconciliation. And I don’t trust it.

T: Right. Okay. So you feel unsafe about going back into any kind of relationship with her, is that correct?

F: Yeah.

T: Right. So you feel there’s a changing of mood…

F: Yeah, to suit what’s happening to her in the Family Courts

T: Right. And also because she’s living with mother. What’s her relationship with her mother like?

F: Oh, she gets on very well with her mother, her mother however had a mental breakdown working for the News when they closed up, and, um, she’s been on WorkCover for the last three – or ever since the News has been closed, her mother’s been on WorkCover from them, and she was given psychiatric treatment, er shock treatment, er, and she’s constantly on medication, and, um,. she is not really capable of looking after the child. On one occasion a friend of ours went to the house, found the mother crying in the lounge-room, she said “what’s wrong?”, and she said, “oh, the washing machine’s gone crazy, the kid’s gone crazy” – the washing machine, there was too much soap…

T: The mother, this is your, this is your partner’s, your ex-partner’s mother?

F: Yeah.

T: Right. So where is your partner, your ex-partner, at this time?

F: Right now she’s…

T: No, I mean, in this incident?

F: Out with me.

T: So she was out with you?

F: This is at one occasion when we both left to look at something, and we left the child with…

T: You were going to look at something?

F: Oh, we were going to look at a house.

T: So she was trying to move… she was suggesting, what, a house for her? Or for the two of you?

F: Oh, for the two of us.

T: Right. So she’s trying to create a reconciliation. Hullo! [addressed to the daughter, who’d wandered in again]

[brief interruption]

F: Anyway, the mother had, um… the mother-in-law, well, the grandmother was having this bit of an attack on the lounge-room, crying her eyes out and…

T: Yeah, because her ability to take stresses is probably very low.

F: Yeah. And when our friend when into the lounge – into the bedroom – there’s all the baby – this was about a year ago – there’s the baby laying on the floor with a half-empty nappy plastic bag over her face. The grandmother had pulled her nappy out, the bag had gone in the kid’s face, the kid had started crying and kicking, then the washing machine had gone out…

T: Yeah, and the grandmother couldn’t cope…

F: She just walked out, with a plastic bag over the baby’s face.

[another interruption, as the child wanders in and out again, briefly saying ‘hello’]

F: So this is just typical of the chaos, down in the house down there, was always in.

T: Right. So you’ve, again, your… your child is actually in a very unstable environment.

F: Oh yeah, I’d say so. And the other thing is… um…

T: What is her son having? He’s now eight or nine?

F: He’s now ten.

T: He’s now ten.

F: And he… basically there’s no authority in the house, because if he gets told to do something, he just says “yeah, yeah, sure thing”, you know, and doesn’t do it. So he stays up till eleven, twelve, two o’clock in the morning, very tired, doesn’t go to school – he does sometimes, but he makes the choice. He gets up at around lunchtime and he cruises off to school, so the Child Welfare’s on her case about her son… I would just like to add that when I first started going out with J., Child Welfare were on the verge of taking her son away from her an’ all that. And I went to a meeting in the school – this was a meeting saying “we’re now taking the child away from you”, and I went with J. and she was crying, and I said to the headmaster, “I’ve been in this family for three weeks, has there been a change?”, and he said “yes, the child is more responsive at school, he’s starting to draw colourful pictures of adults holding hands with children, whereas before he just used black, and with sad faces and that”…

T: Yes. Right. So your appearance in that family stabilised the…

F: And I had, at one stage I had a letter from [named officer], our FACS worker, saying that the only reason they hadn’t taken the child away was because I was on the scene making it stable.

T: Right.

F: I didn’t think to keep that letter – pity! [wry laugh]

T: Yeah. But you have had, effectively, external proof that you were stabilising rather than destabilising the environment.

F: And now that I’ve gone, there’s lots of other people saying the family’s gone to chaos again.

T: Yeah. Right. So the statement being made that you are an abuser and the rest is… an interesting one, given that there is external evidence that if anything you are stabilising the environment rather than making it unstable.

F: I’ve got, I’ve got a letter from two headmasters – two separate letters from two headmasters from A.’s [the son’s] school, saying that I’m the one who stabilised A. I got letters from my bosses saying I got sacked because of her harassment.

T: So you have… they have admitted that they, quotes, ‘had to let you go’, unquotes, because it had been intolerable for them. Effectively it made it impossible for them to continue with your presence – they didn’t so much ‘give you the sack’ as couldn’t afford to keep you.

F: Well, yeah, this is right, yeah.

T: So they were being harassed – punished – for your presence there, and could not, could not… they couldn’t, I mean, I’ve been an employer, I couldn’t run a business under those circumstances.

F: That’s right, yeah, and I’ve got letters to say as much. The interesting thing is, I was really desperate to keep our family together, and realised it had come to the time where my tolerance level had dropped to the degree that in the end, as soon as she started, I would promptly pick up a cup and smash it on the floor, and say, “now, right, let’s start”, y’know? Um, I just…

T: So you were at risk of becoming violent?

F: Yeah.

T: And that’s when you moved out?

F: No. I started taking sleeping tablets. I’d get home from work, and I’d take these, er, sleeping tablets, which would put me on a zonked-out level, so I was no longer even… She would abuse me, and I’d just say “yeah, yeah” [demonstrates ‘spaced out’ indifference] and it would go over the top of my head.

T: So you were literally drugging yourself so you could not respond.

F: That’s right. Then we tried to get our relationship together, so we went down to the Cope Centre down in [address], a course on ‘Building Better Relationships’. I could see the logic of what was being said, it would be good for one night, two nights, then by the third night the abuse would be starting again, and every week this was being repeated. At the end of six weeks…

[interruption by children]

F: At the end of six weeks, the course was over, the interesting thing I, I found in that course was that out of ten families, three families were Christian or ex-Christian families, they’d been together for thirty years, fifteen years and twenty years. I asked about “did the Christian side make any difference?” They said yes, but I thought Christianity would be a psychology such as the Cope course was a psychology, a different aspect or way of looking at things. And I thought the advantage Christianity would have was it was every Sunday for the rest of your life, eventually it would sink in.

T: Right. Yeah. Is there… I mean, at what point did you become actively – I mean, involved in Christianity?

F: Well, when we split up, um was putting my stuff in storage – ‘cos I had to leave the house [momentary interruption addressed to a child] I had to use, um… I had to get out, I was putting my stuff in storage, and at the storage office there was leaflets about Christianity. I said to the people that owned the place, “are you Christians?”, and they said “yeah”. I said “how long have you been married?” “twenty years”. I said, “how come? like, that’s a long to remain married and not hate each other”, and, um, so, um, they explained to me that the love of Christ, ekcetra, ekcetra…

T: So you became fairly actively involved in Christian… in Christian philosophy at that point?

F: Well, at that point, me and J. – ‘cos she still wants to reconciliate, she always has wanted to…

T: So she’s wanting you and not wanting you…

F: Yeah, it’s very backwards and forwards.

T: …yeah, and that you are… are you… It looks like you’re providing a stable situation, and she is highly unstable, and that you’re providing a stabilising force in her environment. Is… like, that might sound somewhat aggrandising, but is that roughly correct?

F: I used to, and now that I’ve… and because I’ve had this insecurity of myself, insecurity of loneliness, I wanted to make the relationship work.

T: So you were lonely…

F: Yeah.

T: …yeah, the sense of isolation… and she is filling that hole.

F: Yeah.

T: Right. And your daughter is somewhat – is very much filling that hole.

F: Yeah. What I’ve found, um, over a period of time, on the not… we were both invited to go to a church, and, um, see for ourselves. We went down, we had arguments even just getting in the door, we’d…

T: Right! [wry laugh]

F: …she stormed off and started talking to a pastor I didn’t know, so I was sitting in the back, and at the end of the service they asked “who wants to give their hearts to the Lord?”. So she came down with me and said, “let’s for the sake of our family, let’s do it”. So we put our hands up and they asked us to go up the front. We went out to this back room. The pastors, who separated me and J., and, um, they said “what’s your problem?”, and she said, “oh, him, him, him”, and they said [to me] “what’s your problem?” and I said “her, her, her”…

T: Yes! [wry laugh] Yes!

F: …and they said, “by not taking responsibility yourself…”, you know, so we apologised to each other, and we did this ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ thing, repenting living in a world without Christ and all that sort of stuff…

T: What sort of church is this?

F: Assemblies of God.

T: Assemblies of God. Okay.

F: …and all I can say is on that time I did that – it was a sixty-second prayer, I had my eyes closed – I felt, um, a strong sensation of love in my heart, which spread across my body. Now I’ve taken acid in my younger days, and the experience…

T: I can understand [wry laugh] why people took acid – for the same reasons, yeah.

F: …um, experienced a very strong outer sensations, if you know what I mean, and I’ve practised meditation, martial arts training and stuff, and experienced sort of very inner or, sensations or whatever, but this, honestly, this was stronger than anythink I’d ever experienced before.

T: And it connected the two together.

F: Well, what I mean is, when you take acid, you know it’s somethink from the outside. It hits you like a brick, you know? Um, when you meditate and whatever, you know it’s something you’re doing to yourself and it gives you a tingly sort of sensation or whatever, um, but this was just stronger than acid, and it was like it wasn’t something that I was, that they were brainwashing or hypnotising me to experience my sensation, this was – oh, it was incredible. Afterwards I opened my eyes and I looked at J. and she was beaming, smiling, glowing, her skin was almost glowing…

T: Right! Yeah. That was your perception of her. Did she say something, the same about you?

F: Yeah, she, she did. On my way home that night, because on that occasion she was staying at a battered woman’s home or whatever you call it, protection house or whatever it’s called…

T: Why?

F: Because she had… because I had gone to work, and, er – this is while we were still together, you see – no, no, no, this is afterwards, but that’ll do – I had come back, and she’d asked me to come back to the house, then we got into an argument, and I’d punched a wall, and so she’d just scooted out to this place.

T: Sorry – you’d bashed the wall?

F: Yeah. Yeah, and so she’d gone to this sort of place, and, um, so… on the way home, I thought to myself, that on that day I’d seen God’s love – because she hasn’t got that much love in her – you know, she’s only a normal person, she hasn’t got that much love – but… and I thought, well maybe this is the big turnaround, I mean change-around. Um… it sort of lasted for about three weeks, and then some friends wanted to go out and get drunk, and she went off with them, and it was all chaos again. And, um…

T: And you stick… you stuck very much with the Christians. What was her perspective?

F: Not… you know, I, I went looking into it, thinking it was a psychology of the mind, and how to live a nice life, etcetera, and I found that behind it there is actually a real God as well.

T: Are you with [the] Christian biker crew [linked to the men’s group]?

F: No, no, I have I have a motorbike and I’ve sort of like mates I know //at Moreton? that bought them?// and so…

T: I just wondered whether you were with that group, because one of their main ethos is the Christian…

F: That’s right, um…

T: …although they’re essentially bikies, they’re very much from a Christian perspective.

F: Well, they actually saved my life about five years before I become a Christian.

T: Is that right?

F: Well, I was on my bike, and I got stung by a bee, and I never realised I was allergic to ’em until that moment. And… so… I put my by into somebody’s house and got them to drive me into the hospital, by the time I got there I was paralysed and eyes shut and swollen up. B. got me stuff, and got me back to life again.

T: B. was working at the hospital?

F: He gave me the card, and he told me they were having a barbecue, and he told me it was a Christian thing, and I sort of thought, “oh yeah, Christians, I’m not going to have anything to do with that” – five years later I met him in the church, you know! Yeah… so that was an interesting scene too.

T: Okay. So it’s obviously a bit rough at the moment. How are you coping with this?

F: Um…

T: If you get angry, I notice you hold a lot in your shoulders. When you get angry, how do you handle the anger?

F: Read scriptures out of the Bible.

T: Right. So you read scriptures to yourself.

F: Yeah. I’ll give you an example of something that happened to me yesterday… Yes, it’s okay [addressed to the daughter, on another another brief visit to the interview room]. Something… this is what happened to me yesterday. I’ve got some friends what wear these Nazi swastika tee-shirts, and, um… I know those people and I don’t feel offended by them because I’ve known them and speaking to them…

T: That’s their choice.

F: Yeah. Yesterday I was at a show in Mt Barker and I saw a rough-tough looking bloke walking through the show with a blazing swastika on his tee-shirt. And I didn’t know the bloke, and I suppose in some respects I could have felt threatened, um, and I, I had a friend with me, and I said to him, “you know, my Dad fought against that rubbish”, and this friend of mine said “so did mine”. And I said, “well, does that mean, like, that he fought for nothing, now they’re going to rise it up again, you know?” And my mate said, “ah, it’s wrong, really”, so…

[brief interruption to move children playing outside the window]

F: …so I, I said – my words were, “well, let’s bash him, if he wants to be a Nazi, let’s teach him what it’s all about!”. And my mate said, [demonstrates ‘calm-down’, dissuading voice] “well, that’s a good idea, but, you know, let’s not…”, so…

T: So that… yeah.

F: But I had this anger in me. Look, my Dad actually tell me lots and lots of war-stories and stuff, he’d be fighting against the Nazis and all this stuff, and here was one bloke brazenly strutting this swastika about…

T: Saying how good it was, yes. Yeah.

F: And, anyway, there was a tent with scriptures there – they were giving out scriptures framed in glass, they were glass an’ that, and they were giving them away for nothing. And one really spoke to me. it said, um… [flicks through diary] …ah, here it is: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, for the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost”. Now that was a totally different perspective…

T: Yes… because “let’s bash him” is the ‘righteous’ position, isn’t it?

F: Yeah… and, like, Christ died for that dude?, more so than me because now I’m walking with God as it were, so especially him. And so that… that really helps me to put a more positive aspect on my whole life. And that’s how I deal with the whole thing.

T: Right. Because one of the things that we’re looking for is that, an awful lot of shit is being dumped on males, a lot of feminist theory says “it’s all men’s fault, we’re going to dump it on men” and the women aren’t going to deal with any of their own stuff, and men are going to try and take it on, which is one of our problems. And the men have got to have somewhere safe to put it, rather than putting it back on women.

F: Yeah. Yeah.

T: If women are historically avoiding responsibility and throwing it onto men, then we’ve got to have somewhere for it to come out.

F: Yeah, right.

T: In the interim, until we get women actually beginning to face their own responsibility, we have got to find a better way to get men – of getting men to handle their own anger.

F: Any ideas?

T: Well, you’ve just said one – I mean, your one is Christianity. Personally I’m not a Christian, I’ve had too much of being ‘the one who’s expected to die for other people’s sins’, so I have real difficulty with Christian, you know, with Christian ideology. So it’s not my perspective – I actually play the flute instead!

F: Yeah, right!

T: Yeah. I mean, that’s my… each… I’m interested in finding out how each man resolves the very real anger… notice how easy it would be to bash this guy up, to deal with, to so-called ‘deal with’ the anger you feel about your relationship.

F: Yeah. Yeah.

T: That’s often how it gets transferred…

F: Right, yeah.

T: …you see this symbol which is of all evil, you’re dealing with all this stuff out here [demonstrates – i.e. the relationship], okay, I can avoid that by smashing the symbol of evil.

F: Yes! [wry laugh] Yeah, yeah.

T: And it’s… I’m looking… so I’m just asking the question about how do you handle… that?

F: Well, I handle it through concentrating… on scriptures and…

T: Yes. So it becomes a meditation in that sense, but a living meditation.

F: Yeah.

T: Anything else that’s worth saying?

F: Um…

T: What help…? – I mean, you’ve obviously had help from B. [the men’s-group co-ordinator] and S. [the lawyer].

F: Yeah…

T: What… or how would you have managed… or what do you reckon would have happened if you hand’t had that help?

F: I, I think, as things were going, I was getting more and more angry. On one occasion, um, while I was still working, er, it was eleven o’clock at night and J. phoned me at my house. I had to get up at, um five o’clock in the morning to go to work, so I was already asleep. I got up and I, I said… she would try to say this conversation, which to me meant no sense at all, and I would end up hanging up, and then I’d think to myself, “no, no, she’s wrong, I have to prove a point”, so I’d phone her back, and speak my point across, to which she would just outright deny everythink and blame me – you know, it was my fault I wasn’t //at hand?// – you know what I mean?

T: Yeah, I do. Now what I’m saying…

F: Now what happened was that at two o’clock in the morning the phone calls were still going, and I had, I, I lost it, I thought to myself, “now I’m going to kill her. I’m going to go to her house, I’m going to kill her, I’m going to do my time, and then I’m going to be free”. So I got in my car, and I’m thinking, “I don’t really want to go to jail all for the rest of my life for this”, but I’ve got to do something, you know? So then I’m driving towards her house, and I’m thinking, “if, if I see her, clear?, I’m just going to kill her, I’m not going to…” – you know, that’s all I’m going to do. Um… no use her saying “sorry”, because by the time I get there I’m going to be so worked up I’m going to do it so quick that she won’t even have a chance to say sorry. As I went… um… I went past the pastor’s house, and the church, and I thought, “well, maybe he can help me” – because I knew I’d lost it. I knew I’d lost it, I didn’t want to do it but I was so driven. So I called in at his house – it was two o’clock in the morning – he got out of bed, and I explained the situation to him, and he said, “well, let’s pray about it”. And I was sitting on the couch, he put one hand on my shoulder, and he started speaking in tongues, like, they speak about this?

T: Yes. Yeah, I’m familiar with the process.

F: Um… all I know is that tight, cold knot in my stomach relaxed and was gone. He didn’t say anything which was a good psychology, to change my [mind]…

T: Yeah, I’m familiar with those processes, okay? But what I’m asking you is, if you hadn’t had any of that support…

F: I think eventually I would have… murdered her.

T: So, you… with… without the support, she was actually at risk?

F: Yeah – well, we both were, I was at risk of going to jail for the rest of my life, she was at risk of, um, being murdered.

T: Yuh. And, um, again, she was phoning you, blaming you full-time.

F: Yeah.

T: And you were not being heard at all.

F: Yeah. That’s right

T: So without any help [for F.], she was actually at risk.

F: Yeah, //guaranteed? going to?//, yeah.

T: So that if we… yeah… if we had… at the moment we’re told there should be no men’s, men’s groups, there should be no men’s support, that it is totally wrong.

F: It’s putting women at more risk, because what eventually… I’ve got friends, now, who are not taking part in the men’s support groups who are just sitting at home complaining about it and getting bitter, um… and what happens is their talk centres on stuff, “okay, women have got everythink, let’s take… they’re trying to do it through the courts, let’s just take guns and take it back, let’s have a war between women, put ’em in chain and collar”. And…

T: Yep. So you’re actually hearing… you’re hearing, you’re beginning to hear this thing about “we will take it back”?

F: Yeah.

T: Right. That’s what I was afraid of. So it is already at that stage?

F: It’s at that stage, and the war-cry is, er, “they’ll never take the piss-trough!” [wry laugh] But you see, the thing is, between a lot of men…

T: So you’ve heard this quite a lot?

F: Yeah… [questioning tone] I mean, these John Norman gore books are becoming very popular.

T: John Norman Gore?

F: John Norman is an author, I think he’s, he writes for Star Publications, and it’s a fiction fantasy about, um, a planet, a counter-Earth, as it were, [i.e. ‘Gor’] where, um, men have no guns, just swords and chains or whatever, and they’re warring cities, and it’s quite right that a man should go to a – nobody has a free-woman, right, because they protest and create too much trouble – so men go to other warring cities, steal the wife, steal the women, and take them home as slaves in collar.

T: And these are becoming popular?

F: These are becoming more and more popular every… Every time I’ve heard of a man being imprisoned for enslaving a woman, in a newspaper, because it’s caught my eyes quite a lot, I always find out in a small part in the article, it always says “a large collection of ‘Gor’ books”. They’ve become, like, the bible.

T: Oh, ‘g-o-r’, as opposed to ‘g-o-r-e’. Right. Okay. So it’s become a kind of ideology in its own right, that it’s right for a man to take, take and control a woman.

F: A lion doesn’t, um… “Nobody questions a lion, a lion when he kills a zebra and eats it, um, how come men have become so stupid that they allow themselves to be questioned when they take what is rightfully theirs by power of right, by power of strength, power of might.”

T: Right. So we’re getting that kind of ideology going out…

F: Yeah.

T: So we’re getting hate… we’re beginning to get hate-material going the other way as well.

F: Yeah.

T: Ouch…

F: And a lot of those men have become joining the Nazi swastika tee-shirt brigade, because it’s jackboots and “we are now, we’re not going to be the nail, we’re gonna be the hammer”.

T: Yeah. Yes. So you’re seeing quite a lot of that?

F: Yeah, very much so.

T: Have you seen that changing in the last two, three, five years?

F: Becoming more organised through the Nazi, like, events.

T: So the Nazi-type things are, like, essentialist…

F: Men, men wanting power.

T: Men wanting power. And they’re defining ‘power’ as ‘putting others down’?

F: To a degree, yeah, because then they’re on top.

T: Right. Ouch… Okay.

F: I think that’s what a lot of these bike clubs are wanting,. Men wanting power in their lives, and some //spouse is wanting?//…

T: Feeling powerless and wanting, wanting something resembling power.

F: Yeah. They, they do gain or acquire that power, especially in a big group of patch-wearers or have got the same uniform or whatever, because women who’ve… very insecure women, or even very pretty ones, go to those sort of clubs and get gang-banged or whatever…

T: And they go to those sort of clubs to get gang-banged? They choose to go?

F: Yeah. I’ve seen it myself, yeah.

T: You’ve seen it yourself. Right – I mean, how, how many wo[men], with how many men are they going?

F: Oh…

T: …when you say ‘gang-banged’, what are you talking about?

F: Oh, three, five, seven, whatever the group is, right?

T: And they are going, they are choosing to do this – you’re sure they’re not being taken, as the Gor material would say?

F: Bit of a mixture of both – they are choosing to go where the men are authoritive, where there’s something to sort of look up to, in that way…

T: They’re not… they, they are just literally… from then on they’re being ‘taken’?

F: From then on they’re being taken. As soon as they walk in the club door, that’s it, they’re taken , they’re being peeled, knocked out, gang-banged or whatever.

T: So they’re knocked out?

F: Sometimes, yeah.

T: Right. So they’re in fact being raped.

F: Yes. Yeah. Only they wouldn’t dare protest, because if you protest against a heavy bike club, youve been raped, next thing, all sorts of trouble.

T: So that’s happening as well, you’re seeing…

F: I’ve seen, I’ve seen plenty of it. Now I’m more in the Christian stuff I’m, you know, I don’t see it any more, but when I was I was in that sort of community it was common.

T: So the girls are going in, of choice. Are any coming back?

F: Once they get in that scene it’s usually drugs… alcohol and, um… you know, prositution seems to go hand-in-hand with it all.

T: Right. So it becomes a form of prostitution, “we give you drugs, you screw around”?

F: Yeah, yeah, sure. Screw clu[b], patch-members, but then it’s, um… um… organised brothels, which are run by clubs, most of the brothels are now.

T: Okay. [pause, followed by wry laugh] Thanks very much for coming over, that gets some of it down on tape. F. thanks very much, well done – it’s not easy.

[restart after further discussion]

T: You were saying, about police?

F: The police, um, made quite a few private visits to J.’s house and spoke to her and warned her that most murders were done out of domestic violence situations, and that she should be very cautious of me because of this reason. And they gave her leaflets and put her in touch with lots of different women’s organisations. Nobody visited me at all… um… and it was interesting that, now that these men’s groups are happening, um… yeah, how do I put this? um… she was at risk of being hurt, because the only way we had of resolving the situation was… it was all looked at from her point of view until a man is cornered more and more, till the only way he has out of that corner is to smash out through the middle of it, unless he finds himself some, er…

T: Or kill himself, which does happen a lot.

F: Yeah, yeah.

T: …which is another way of smashing out of the corner.

F: I was almost driven to suicide quite a few times. Um… what happened is, we would get into an argument, eventually I would get so angry I would smash a cup or a plate on the floor, threaten to hit her, and then afterwards I’d feel – or even sometimes I did hit her – um, and then afterwards I would feel so guilty about it, um, and not really understand even why I’d done it…

T: So you did hit her?

F: Um, yeah, like on the occasion when she was hitting, slapping me, so I just gave her one back.

T: Right.

F: On another occasion, um…

T: How often were these… how often did you get angry and then hit her? Or did she… how often did it happen that she hit you first?

F: Um… one occasion where I got angry and just hit her, she didn’t hit me, was…

T: Right. So you do know that.

F: Yeah. I came round to the house to give her money, fifty dollars out of my wages, and, um, when I got to the house I saw all these bottles of alcohol, and I was already angry because I’ve already made an agreement that there’d be no alcohol. Um… I waited for her to get home, she got home and she was quite drunk, she was with her mother. And her mother was saying things like “get the asshole out of here” and stuff like that, so I said to J., “come inside, here’s fifty bucks, sign a receipt and I’m going, I’m not going to stick around and listen to this”. So J. said, “no, I refuse to come inside, um, I’m not going to sign a receipt, stick your money”. And I said, “well, this is Y.’s money, you’d better take it”, and she said “no, no”, and I said… she said “I’m not signing any receipt for you”. So I said… I lost it, and I said, “yes you are, I’m not putting up with this” – her mother was calling me an asshole and all sorts of things – so, um, I grabbed J. by the hair – totally lost it – dragged her towards the house, spulled away from me…

T: So you’re trying to drag her in, to sign the receipt?

F: Yeah! She pulled away from me and, er, started swearing at me, so I…

T: Yeah – which she would! [wry laugh]

F: Yeah… so I, I threw her to the floor and kicked her with me boots, and, um, she put her arms and legs up to defend herself so I just kicked her arms and legs and stuff, and then I grabbed her by the hair and dragged her inside. Once we were inside, um, she started to say “oh, I’m sorry, F., I love you, I love you, can’t we reconciliate?”

T: Yes…

F: …and then I said, “well, it goes from this, that you’re telling me ‘piss off, piss off, I don’t want the money or nothing, just get out, I don’t even want to sign a receipt’, and now you’re saying ‘I love you, I love you'”. And she’s saying “oh well, no, I don’t know why I do this to you”. I then felt so very guilty, because I’d just hit her and kicked her, and, um… at one occasion this was getting so much, that, um, at one occasion I actually went off to see a fellow that I would knew would sell, could get hold of, um, unsafe gelignite, and I gave him fifty bucks for a stick, a fuse and a detonator, and, um… he just never came through with it, I was waiting and waiting. I was just going to stick it in my back pocket and light the fuse and go for a walk off up the paddock somewhere.

T: That’s… that’s using the gelignite on you, not on her.

F: Yeah, yeah. I’ve… I couldn’t bring… I’ve got a knife and I tried to cut my wrists, it hurt so much I couldn’t do it. [wry laugh] Couldn’t bring myself to shoot myself, I’ve known other people that had done it and given themselves brain damage and not succeeded, and I thought, “well, a stick of jelly in the back pocket, just light it and don’t worry about, walk and boom! – it’s all over. But, thank God, he didn’t… come through with the…deal. A long time later I got my money back. Um… but this come about because after hitting her, I feel so guilty, like, wishing you’d never done it.

T: Is she saying “I love you, I love” in the hope that this is going to get you stable – because you’ve now actually pulled her into the house – and is she very much afraid that you’re really going to do her, because you’re out of public view?

F: Yeah… yeah… Well perhaps , her, her own fear about… I also think she’s got, she always tells me quite often that she gets very lonely, so I can under[stand]… now that I’ve got , if I get lonely now I read some scriptures and I meditate on scriptures and I pray to God, and then I’m not lonely as I was…

T: So you’re not actually as dependent on her as you were?

F: No, not now I’m not. Through my Christianity and through stuff I’ve done with B. And, er, but however she’s very dependent on having somebody of… some man there. And, er, she tells me she gets extremely lonely and depressed and afraid, etcetra etcetra, and, er… she would like me back for those reasons, but now I go to my house it’s so peaceful, and hers is so chaotic, that I can only bear to be there for a very short period of time.

T: So other occasions… This is very obviously an occasion where you hit her before she hit you…

F: That’s right.

T: …and you’re quite happy to accept that.

F: Yeah.

T: Other occasions, on average…

[end of tape]

Notes: no record was kept of the answer to the final question, which asked F.’s opinion as to which partner, on average, hit first in arguments which led to physical blows.

Two further comments were made, which were promised to be confirmed in writing. One was that the expression “she asked for it” took an extreme form in the relationship, in that F. stated that J., who was, in her own words, ‘a compulsive shoplifter’, asked F. to beat her as punishment if she did so again, to try to stop her doing so. The next time she was caught shoplifting, which was about a week later, she came home from the police station and asked him to beat her. He removed his belt, he said, and hit her repeatedly on the backside until, crying, she told him to stop. She was unable to sit for a while (unspecified). The next day she returned from the shops, saying that she’d again wanted to steal, but “she remembered the pain of the beating”, and walked out without stealing anything – she told F. she was very grateful for this. This state of affairs continued – without any repetition of the beating – for about six weeks, when she again started stealing, and again asked to be beaten. However, he refused to do this, partly because he was aware of his own violence and very real discomfort at hurting another ‘in cold blood’, partly because he was aware that to do so could be used against him at any moment in the Family Court or elsewhere, and partly because he – correctly, in law – considered he had neither responsibility or duty to punish her, or to take responsibility away from her for her own behaviour. Her shoplifting habit still continues.

The other comment came from another member of the men’s group. What F. had not told me was that J. was at times resorting to prostitution in order to maintain her continuing heroin habit. She had apparently been having sex with clients with the child Y. present in the cot beside the bed – the daughter would have been about two years old at this time. F. knew this, and had mentioned at the men’s group that he was deeply concerned about the effect on his daughter, but even under the private circumstances of the interview was unwilling to admit this to someone he didn’t know well.

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